Algeria to Collect 1 Million Signatures for Bill Criminalising French Colonialism

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Level: Intermediate

Originally published on 08 February 2021

Algerian MPs have started a petition to call on the government to enact a law to criminalise the French colonial occupation of the country, which ended in 1962.

The petition is a reaction to a French report from 20 January last year, which discussed the colonisation of Algeria.

Many Algerians criticise the report and believe it fails to really talk about France’s “colonial crimes”. The report was prepared by French historian Benjamin Stora, who delivered it to President Emmanuel Macron. The Élysée Palace released a statement saying that this does not mean that France is going to issue a formal apology to Algeria.

Belarbi Kamal is one of the MPs who started the petition. He pointed out that he and the other MPs presented their bill to the People's National Assembly on 28 January last year. “The project has been frozen for a whole year, and it was not considered for unknown reasons. The initiative to collect signatures is a reaction to the stalling of the bill, which affects the rights of the martyrs and the veterans of the war of independence”.

He pointed out that the invitation to sign the petition also came after comments by presidential advisor Abdel Majid Sheikhi. “The Algerians criminalised colonialism decades ago in their hearts without the need for a legal text,” said Sheikhi weeks ago.

Kamal insisted that France’s recognition of its colonial crimes is its own affair. “What concerns us is restoring the rights of Algerians that were lost, such as the national archives and financial compensation. One million signatures will convey the people’s message to the government and the legislative authority”.

 

Algeria made no official comment on the French report. The matter was limited to media reports and comments made by various personalities unconnected to the government.

The French colonisation of Algeria lasted between 1830 and 1962. The Algerian authorities and historians say that nearly five million people were murdered during the occupation, with wealth, historic documents and artefacts plundered and taken to France. Some of the items date back to the Ottoman rule of Algeria from 1515 to 1830.

French officials have said on several occasions that there is a need to turn the page on its colonial past in Algeria, but the North African state has demanded from France official recognition of its colonial crimes. 

Adapted from Middle East Monitor

New vocabulary:

  • call on – ask

  • enact a law – make a law official

  • fails to – does not

  • Élysée Palace – the official residence of the President of France

  • issue a formal apology  – formally say sorry

  • pointed out – said

  • presented their bill – showed their bill

  • People's National Assembly – the lower house of the Algerian Parliament

  • considered – looked at

  • initiative – a plan (to achieve something or solve a problem)

  • stalling – delaying (not taking any action)

  • martyrs – people who are killed because of religious or political reasons and are admired because of it

  • recognition – agreement that something is true

  • its own affair – its own problem (not Algeria’s problem)

  • restoring – giving back

  • national archives – a collection of documents that records important events in a country’s history

  • financial compensation – money that is paid to someone because they have been hurt or something has been damaged

  • convey – get a message across

  • legislative authority – the people who make the laws

  • artefacts – objects that have important cultural or historical meaning

  • plundered – stolen (often using force)

  • turn the page – make a new start after some difficulties

 

Questions:

Do you think France should apologise to Algeria?

Do you think France owes Algeria financial compensation?

Do you think the petition will be a success?